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Favourite van enters its sixth generation.

Byline: CHRIS RUSSON

THE Ford Transit is as much a part of British motoring heritage as the Mini or the E-Type Jaguar and now there's a new one on the way.

Come November the sixth generation of the nation's favourite van will be hitting the road priced from pounds 18,316.

Since the original arrived back in 1965, the Transit has been a feature of everyday life on the road. s

From tradesmen to taxi drivers, delivery firms to corporate giants, the Transit's multi-role ability has resulted in almost seven million sales across Europe with more than two million in the UK.

Now the van that can is going global and under Ford's One World strategy the new Transit range will be built not just in Southampton, but also in Turkey and the USA.

What is so compelling about the new model is its car-like character, not just when it comes to driving but also with its creature comforts.

From behind the wheel you could be forgiven for thinking you were driving a Ford Focus such is the trendy look of the dashboard.

Sat-nav, air conditioning, Bluetooth and music player ports, lane departure warning systems and even illuminated vanity mirrors are all part and parcel of what Ford claims is the best van ever.

It caters for all tastes and comes in a seemingly endless variety of body styles from panel vans to double-cab trucks and eight seater minibuses in short or long wheelbase formats and all decked out to specific customer needs.

In one tonne guise the new Transit is known as the Custom and it is designed to give the modern van man the edge.

Compared with rivals it's got the best load-lugging capacity and even the short wheelbase model is capable of carrying three fully laden Euro pallets or taking 8ft x 4ft boards either flat or vertically.

New features include a load-through hatch in the bulkhead which enables the long wheelbase Transit to take objects up to 3.4 metres long while load volumes range from six cubic metres in the short wheelbase van to 6.8 in the longer version.

There is also an integrated roof rack system which can carry up to 130 kilos yet retracts into the body when not required to improve aerodynamics and boost fuel economy.

Handy details include locking arms to ensure the rear cargo doors can't slam shut accidentally, fixing hooks on the body sides to keep the load floor clear, an easy clean cargo bay liner and ultra-bright LED interior lights.

The Transit Custom has been designed and engineered by Ford's technicians at the Dunton research and development facility in Essex and its 2.2-litre diesel engines come from nearby Dagenham.

It's available with three power outputs of 100, 125 or 155ps and thanks to eco-systems such as stop/start and a speed limiter every version can average more than 40mpg (8.8 miles per litre).

We have just put the higher powered engine through its paces in the latest Tourneo minibus version of the Transit and it makes for an impressive combination which can even become the ultimate family MPV.

Not only is it smooth, but it also has plenty of pulling power through a sixspeed gearbox operated from a short throw gear lever mounted on the dash at the side of the steering wheel.

Gear change prompts flash up in the instrument panel as a further economy aid and the stop/start system works very effectively in traffic.

Cabin noise is noticeably quieter than on the previous model and for the driver and the two front seat passengers there's plenty of space.

The top range Tourneo Limited costs pounds 32,605 including VAT and comes with a gamut of equipment which would not disgrace an executive saloon, including cruise control, an electronic stability programme, a quick-clear heated windscreen and headlamps which provide additional illumination when cornering.

The driver's seat is electronically adjustable while the van itself was fitted with parking sensors and a rear view camera which shows the area behind including trajectory lines in a full colour display that's incorporated into the rear view mirror.

The split-view door mirrors now include indicator repeaters while storage space in the cabin sees double bins in the doors, bottle holders in the dash, a storage box above the instruments and a compartment for your spectacles or sunglasses fitted over the driver's door.

In the middle front seat there's a fold-down table complete with an elasticated document strap while there's space for more paperwork on a central overhead shelf.

Room in the back is surprisingly generous with good leg room for all passengers and individual ventilation above each seat.

This particular Tourneo also had some VIP appointments with leather upholstery finished in grey while a quick-release mechanism enables the second row seats to be folded at the pull of a lever to give easy access to the rear through wide opening sliding side doors.

Even with all seats occupied luggage space is sufficient to take bags for all passengers, making the Tourneo exceptionally competent as well as economical to run.

We managed to average 34 mpg (7.5 miles per litre) on a route which took in a fair amount of motorway work as well as urban driving while Ford claims the official fuel return should be 43.4 to the gallon (9.55 miles per litre).

The 125ps engine is said to be the most efficient and rated at 46.3mpg (10.2 miles per litre) in the Tourneo and 44.1 (9.7) in the panel van with average emissions ranging between 172 and 178g/km - a significant improvement over the previous model.

With such credentials it seems the newcomer is guaranteed to continue the trend which has seen the Transit dominate the light commercial van market, accounting for one in three of all vans sold - an enviable position for the van which has become a national institution.

CAPTION(S):

* BEST YET: The Ford Transit, far left, and Tourneo, left. Above: The Transit's load-through bulkhead and car-like driver's seat. Below: Six generations of Transit
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Sep 7, 2012
Words:1017
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